Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Three words that show you care

I know that one month from today, I had better have my i's dotted and t's crossed. I had best come correct. Indeed, I had better be minding my p's and q's. Otherwise, this young lady will be one angry person.

That's right, one month from now will be Valentine's Day, and my wife Rhonda is never going to let me live it down if I forget. That's why I have multiple alarms set on my calendar, notes just about everywhere in my office and even one or two in my car. If I can only find them...

You know, there are two things I have to say about my wife. First, I definitely married over my head. She's one heck of a woman, a great mom and one of the smartest people I know. She has also given me tremendous insight into my work as a PIO. After all, she was the first journalist I ever had the privileged of working with.

She and I both met at the University of Maryland in 1989, and as I watched her learn the craft of broadcast journalism (and carried some of that old equipment across a large college campus), I learned about deadlines, and how important they are. And, when she got her first work experience, her knowledge only became more extensive, and I learned more from her.

For instance, I know for a fact that when a reporter calls you, looking for information on a story they are doing, it pays to 'fess up early during the process. This way, precious time can be saved while they prepare their story for the newscast or the next day's paper.

Part of that 'fessing up includes the three words that PIOs never seem to want to use, but can mean that you really care about the reporter:

 I don't know.

Real Renaissance Man Leonardo da Vinci
There is no shame in using those three words. Seriously. No one is expecting you to be a true renaissance man or woman, truly from the days where someone could literally amass all the (known) world's knowledge in their personal library. In fact, many requests from reporters come from journalistic initiative. The reporter thinks of the story based on the information they gather, and they are looking for you to help flesh out the details.

Now, just telling a reporter I don't know is one thing, but it always helps to follow with the words, "But, I can find out who does."  Maybe it's someone down the hallway from you. It could be someone in another division or department. Heck, it could be someone in an entirely different organization. But, if you know who that person is, it's always helpful to lend the reporter a hand and help them track that person down.

A reporter gathering information
What does that gain you? Well, first of all, it passes that hot potato off to someone else, allowing you to breathe a deep sigh of relief if being in front of a camera makes you nervous. But, it accomplishes a few more things:

  • It builds your cred. You look like you have your act together, which is a big deal. Presenting yourself as a knowledgeable professional encourages reporters to seek you out when something is breaking. Sure, you may steer more than a few reporters elsewhere, but when the time comes for you to pitch your story, you'll be a known commodity.
  • It builds trust. Reporters will appreciate that you have saved them precious time, meaning that they know they will hold you in high regard. 
  • It may find you in good favor. No, helping reporters is not your trump card to get your story covered, but if a reporter has to decide between two stories before pitching them at a morning assignment meeting , and they know they can get your honest, eager cooperation, they may lean your way more often than not.

So, in this season of unbridled affection, if appropriate, take some time to tell the reporters in your life those those three little words that show just how much you care about them...

I don't know. 

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